Game Review - GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64 set a high bar for console shooters with an excellent single player campaign and multiplayer that kept players coming back for years. Fans have clamored for a re-release of Rare's classic, but a cocktail of troublesome licensing issues have worked to confine to its cartridge. Now, Activision, the current holder of the Bond license, aims to satisfy fans with a newly-envisioned GoldeneEye for the Wii. Does it recapture the 64-bit intensity or prey on nostalgia for an empty cash grab?
What's old is new again, and GoldenEye's tale of a killer satellite has been modernized for a 21st Century Bond. Most notably, almost the entire cast has been replaced. Daniel Craig takes Pierce Brosnan's role and you'll have a hard time recognizing anyone else beyond the voice of Dame Judi Dench. There are numerous set changes as you find yourself heading to Barcelona, Dubai, and Nigeria, and the plot does away with the nine-year jump as the whole game takes place in present day with smart phones, references to climate change, and so on.
While such a shake up may seem rather drastic, the plot's main twists and turns are essentially the same, resulting in a story that feels familiar yet fresh. The character interactions help bring Bond to life as he suspiciously eyes a bottle of high-end liquor and you'll get to participate in more of the cinematic action this time around too.
Goldeneye's campaign captures the spirit of its N64 predecessor, taking you from the dam to the jungle, letting you drive a tank through St. Petersberg on the way. Like the story, the level designs often play with your sense of familiarity. The facility still begins with you in the air ducts and unfortunate soldier on a toilet, but as soon as you walk out of the bathroom, you're in new territory. GoldenEye's 14 levels will have you trekking through a snowy military base and escaping a Russian police station, in all taking about seven to eight hours to complete on your first run.
We say "first run" because the campaign is designed to be replayed. The agent and 007 difficulty settings add extra objectives to each mission. You might need to photograph blueprints in various offices, rescue hostages, or blast helicopters with surface-to-air missiles. Completing a mission without finishing all your objectives will force you to either repeat it or continue on a lower setting, but if you keep an eye out for the beacon on your HUD, it isn't too easy to pass them by. Purists can also go for the 007 classic setting which eschews regenerating health in favor of limited supplies of body armor, and after completing each mission, you'll unlock time trials that put your skills to the ultimate test.
It wouldn't be right if they left out split-screen play, but while GoldenEye aims high, the feature falls a bit short. There are only four modes available, including conflict, team conflict, golden gun, and you only live twice. On top of that, there's a full list of modifiers to switch things up, giving you access to silliness like paintball mode, big hands, or singularity, which causes you to explode if you touch another player. While it's nice to have most of these unlocked from the start, many of them aren't as fun in practice as they are in theory. Playing as tiny characters makes the game feel slower, sticky grenades are difficult, if not impossible, to plug on an enemy, and "headshots-only" also counts splash damage from a rocket or grenade. Of course, it wouldn't be Goldeneye if opponents didn't occasionally fire rockets directly at their own feet.
Rather than placing weapons on the map, GoldenEye split-screen has you choose between pre-set loadouts. However, you can't edit loadouts, and if you want to find a setup with say, proximity mines, you have to wait for the display to cycle through each weapon and perk one by one. The 10 maps available aren't the best for four-player matches, and the sluggish performance makes it hard to spot other players in wide areas. Split-screen is definitely a fun diversion, but it just isn't strong enough to drive your friends to your door begging to play another round.
With twice as many players and customizable loadouts, the online fares better. However, the choppy visual performance is just as problematic. A standard deathmatch doesn't stray far from Call of Duty and it has a similar experience system, locking away guns, gear, and perks until you level up. You'll have to get above level 50 before you can freely use the coveted proximity mines.
There are nine gameplay modes in all, including several objective-based team games, golden gun, and heroes, which allows one player per team to take the role of a star like Bond or Ourumov. The signature characters have special weapon sets, added health, and give health boosts to nearby team mates, and players are rewarded with higher scores and XP for taking down these hotshots.
GoldenEye supports all of the Wii's various controllers, including the Classic Pro, the GameCube controller, and even the Zapper, but if you've played other Wii shooters, you'll feel right at home with the default nunchuk setup. In fact, Eurocom clearly built on the same mechanics as the Call of Duty games, snapping to targets when you aim down the sights, even when you're behind cover provided you know where they are. Another nice touch is the ability to lean out from cover simply by twisting the nunchuk.
Like the original, gameplay is based around stealth. A silenced pistol is your main weapon, and you'll want to avoid being spotted by guards or cameras as much as possible. If you're a bit off on a headshot, you still have a few moments to finish off your target before they call for backup. The levels are often designed with stealthier paths in place, so it always pays to keep your eyes open for nearby ventilation ducts or silenced sniper rifles. There are also spots where you can ambush enemies by hacking automated turrets, or by dropping a beam from a crane in a construction site.
When the action does heat up, GoldenEye still encourages you to stick to cover. Reloading temporarily blurs your vision and you'll have to reposition as cover gets destroyed. While there are plenty of soldiers placed in pre-scripted positions, the crack troops called in for backup are trained to seek you out and eliminate you. The AI for these soldiers is significantly more brutal, diving for cover when you take aim, tossing grenades to flush you out, and repositioning to take you from behind. One busy kitchen scene will likely take you a few attempts as there's limited visibility and lots of room for soldiers to get the jump on you.
Breaking up the standard gunplay are moments which put you directly in Bond's shoes outside of combat. You'll use a facial recognition app to search for a contact in a dark nightclub and answer calls from MI6 by putting the Wii remote up to your ear. There are also some simple quick-time events during cinematic moments as you interrogate a scientist or fight your way onto a moving plane.
Despite some clear crossover from Activision's Call of Duty series, GoldenEye's campaign feels distinctively Bond, providing the right balance of stealth, action, and character.
GoldenEye has a great sense of atmosphere and looks good whether you're in blinding snow, thick jungle, or a posh restaurant. Areas are filled with detail and lots of small, breakable objects, but sometimes the tricks employed to work within the limitations of the hardware are a little obvious, like the dancing silhouettes in Barcelona. Background characters tend to be stiff and motionless, but the stars are well animated during stunts and dialogue. Menus are bland, and the picture just isn't very crisp, suffering from aliasing and an inconsistent framerate.
The soundtrack, of course, is classic Bond, and the strong voice acting maintains the bold sense of charisma. The game, however, is lacking the signature theme when you die, and some of the bad guys seem to have caught a bad case of Helghast throat.
GoldenEye 007 has a surprisingly impressive single-player campaign that remains true to its roots despite deliberately rewriting the script. The multiplayer doesn't break any barriers and it's weighed down by performance issues, but it's still fun for a few rounds in the living room or online.
Reviewed on Nintendo Wii.